ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–If the followers of this uniquely American-born religion have not visited your home and left their material, they probably will.
Founded in Pennsylvania, now with headquarters in New York, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rapid growth at the end of the 20th century pushed membership totals to 1.1 million in North America and more than 6 million worldwide.
Southern Baptists and other evangelicals need to prepare with sound doctrine to defeat the inroads being made by this modern-day cult, says Tal Davis, interim director of interfaith evangelism at the North American Mission Board.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, with missionaries who are well-versed in their view of scripture, focus on converting everyone who is not a member of their faith, and they don’t place Jesus Christ at the foundation of that conversion experience, Davis noted. They believe that salvation is found only in being associated with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which they regard as Jehovah’s only accurate channel for biblical interpretation.
“Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a works-based salvation — a salvation that is determined by one’s adherence to the directives of the society,” Davis explained.
To help Southern Baptists and other evangelicals prepare for the inevitable knock at the door, NAMB has produced the third in a series of resources which explain what specific cults believe and how they operate — and how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their followers.
“In the Name of Jehovah: Understanding Jehovah’s Witnesses” is an educational program that can be shown in its entirety for special worship services or in conference settings. The DVD is formatted in segments appropriate for groups or for individual study and includes a discussion guide.
In the Name of Jehovah is the first NAMB interfaith program to be released solely in DVD format. The two previous products –- “The Mormon Puzzle,” released in 1997, and “The Cross and the Crescent: Understanding Islam”, issued in 2001, are available in both VHS and DVD.
The program was produced and directed by Wolfgang Schumacher of NAMB, who served in similar capacities with the two previous products.
Davis said Schumacher was given unprecedented access to Jehovah’s Witnesses facilities at the Watchtower Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, although none of the organization’s leaders or spokesmen would participate in on-camera interviews.
The DVD is hosted and narrated by television personality Joe Washington, host of Home and Garden Television’s “Groundbreakers” show.
“The product has two goals,” Davis said. “First, to educate and inform Christians about the beliefs, practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses so they will not be misled or deceived into becoming a follower. And second, to equip Christians to respond and share a practical witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses and their families.”
Rudy Gonzalez, former director of NAMB’s interfaith evangelism unit and now a vice president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, is one of several national authorities featured on the DVD who explore the basic doctrines of the cult and how to present a strong Gospel presentation.
“In the Name of Jehovah will equip those who watch and study it to present the life-saving message of God’s grace with discernment and confidence,” Gonzalez said. “It is a must for all believers who take seriously the evangelism of all people.”
Among other notable personalities who participated in the project: James Bjornstad, philosophy professor at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, who has done extensive research in cults; Southern Baptist pastor and former Jehovah’s Witness Paul Blizard of Memorial Baptist Church in Beckley, W.Va.; Ron Rhodes, president of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., one of the nation’s foremost experts on cults and sects; Randall Watters, president of Free Minds, Inc., in Manhattan Beach, Calif., a former Jehovah’s Witness and an expert on cult recruitment; and Joan Cetnar of Kunkletown, Pa., a former Jehovah’s Witness who has counseled with former cult members for more than 30 years.
“We should respond in Christian love to Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come knocking and should present a solid witness of the Christ of the Bible,” Davis said. “This program will provide the practical suggestions on how to accomplish that.”
NAMB also provides a Belief Bulletin on Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cult groups. To download items from the collection, visit www.namb.net/evangelism and click on Belief Bulletins in the lower right-hand corner.